LSS: One girl’s amazing journey

Complicated stories are tricky to tell.

So began last week’s tale chronicling Jade’s journey from an orphanage, or Social Welfare Institute, in China, to our home in Louisiana.

Jade, 29, missed the international adoption craze and has spent her life in the SWI.

A year after we adopted our daughter, I returned to her orphanage with my friend and daughter’s godmother, Michelle. We went to work with Jade and the older girls. They stole our hearts.

Michelle has made several trips back to visit. A few years ago, she and I noticed that Jade had made another close connection with an American family. She often referred to “Ken and Nancy” like we should know who they were – after all, we were all Americans.

Michelle and I finally figured out that Ken and Nancy were the grandparents of another baby adopted from her SWI. Eventually, we learned that Ken and Nancy accompanied their daughter to China to adopt. Shortly after they met the newest addition to their family, the little girl became very ill and was hospitalized. With no way for the family to communicate with the Chinese medical staff, Jade was sent to act as a sort of translator.

Jade’s English skills are owed in large part to yet another American. Paul went to China to teach and has made it part of his mission to work with the older girls at the SWI for more than eight years. His consistent efforts have opened all manner of doors for Jade and others.

In the hospital, Jade bonded with the family. Once their granddaughter recovered, Ken and Nancy returned home to Illinois and maintained contact with Jade. Like Michelle, they helped sponsor her education and encouraged her. In the back of all of our minds was the idea of getting Jade to the States for a visit. I never believed it would happen.

For Chinese nationals, getting a tourist visa to the U.S. is tricky. I know of many who had good reasons to visit who have been denied visas. Miraculously, Jade was granted a tourist visa. Ken worked with airlines to keep her travel expenses to a minimum. Two weeks ago, after all these years of hoping, Jade arrived in the United States of America. We were her first visit.

I think it all may have been too much to take in. For example, she had never been swimming. After going twice, she doesn’t seem to think she’s missed much. She simply could not believe we let water get in our ears. She had never worn a pair of high heel shoes, but after her first shopping trip to the mall, she took to it quite naturally. We went to dinner with friends. They grilled steaks – another first for Jade. She nibbled away.

Culture shock was a definite factor. At times, she seemed almost dazed. I often asked if she wanted to go somewhere or do something. Her usual reply was, “No, I just want to be here and live like a family.” 

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